Ah flexibility! When did you leave me and where have you gone?
I used to be exceptionally limber. No, Really. I know I am one of millions who can make this claim, but I actually was really, really flexible at one point. Back in the day, I was playing just about every sport under the sun, but the one that was really keeping my flexibility up was karate. For six years, I went six days a week and stretched before and after each session. I could do a split, I could reach well past my toes, and if I needed to kick something well over my head? Piece of cake.
Not so much. One of my coworkers recently hooked me up with a deal for a month-long membership at a local yoga studio. Oh how the mighty have fallen. When I once dropped into perfect splits, I now struggle with “child’s pose.” There is a special breed of indignity endured by an adult unable to perform an action named diminutively after a child. So what happened to me? Basically, I got complacent; my athletic skills are not in quite as high demand out in the working world, so I do not exercise and stretch consistently like I once did. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to maintain a high level of flexibility, and in most forms of competition, flexibility is absolutely critical to maintaining performance.
It’s is every bit as crucial in the business world. My time working with both customers and prospective customers has taught me that. And at ZL, I think flexibility is one of our greatest strengths.
Before I focused my efforts exclusively on customer relations, I dabbled in sales; there was one conversation in particular that has stayed with me and led me to this flexibility conclusion. I was giving a remote presentation to a mid-sized energy company out of Texas, and their IT lead interrupted me, stating how impressed he was with our flexibility. I had been framing our discussion more in terms of capabilities, saying that we were essentially platform agnostic, could work with all major storage devices, and whatever database they were using. I moved on to data ingestion capabilities, listing off Exchange, Domino, Gmail, Office 365, Lync, SharePoint, and so forth. Then, since they were an energy company and I already worked with a few, I was discussing compliance on top of eDiscovery, plus records, and even storage management. In retrospect, it was a classic rookie call: just listing off capabilities.
What I learned on this call, though, was to ask exactly what problems the potential customer actually needed solved and then take it from there. Flexibility can be a blessing and a curse, because there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Because of all of our capabilities, we could be endlessly flexible for just about any combination of customer needs. So once we dove in a bit further, we settled on eDiscovery and records as the primary needs for this particular potential client… but the flexibility for them did not end there. This company already had a workflow established managing records in SharePoint, but did not know where to go from there, especially from an archiving perspective. We showed them how the ZL records functionality would provide a much more robust and comprehensive approach compared to SharePoint with the direct connection to their Exchange and how from there we could auto-classify, manage lifecycles, intricately categorize, etc. All of that is well and good, but if they wanted to keep their current SharePoint-first workflow, we were also flexible enough to accommodate that just as easily. If they wanted to continue using SharePoint to aggregate all of the files they deemed were records, they could save them there; based on that file plan, ZL could then crawl the system and categorize these records and apply retention schedules on the backend. The project ultimately got postponed due to funding, but the potential deal really taught me a lot about just how flexible and accommodating we could be.
This product flexibility allows our salespeople to adapt and provide highly-customized deployment options for a wide variety of organizations during the sales cycle. But what about a company who has already bought our product and already deployed it? Businesses today evolve more quickly than ever, so the product they purchased originally may not be the same kind of solution they will need a few years down the line. Today as a full-time account manager, it’s these later stages of the product life cycle where I really get to see this flexibility in action. Thankfully, the ZL environment is every bit as flexible post-purchase as it is pre-sale. Just last month, I had a company who wanted to turn on end-user search; within the week, we scheduled a WebEx meeting and turned on that full functionality for them. Right now I am also working with a bank that wants to reduce their IT footprint: a fairly common theme these days. They had used ZL on-premise for years, but their management was demanding a cloud solution. Some solutions can only operate on-premise, some only in the cloud, and some companies use different software for the cloud versus on-premise but advertise it as the same. I was able to tell my customer that we use the same software in the cloud as they had been using on-premise. After a simple ZL to ZL migration, they would not notice any difference in functionality; the only change would be that the data would now reside in our data center, rather than theirs.
Our customers and potential customers have really appreciated the flexibility we could provide for their unique environments and scenarios, and our capabilities in this regard have really made my job easier. Much like bodily flexibility though, technological flexibility requires a lot of work to maintain. Despite our current flexibility, if we were not constantly developing and building out new connectors, that flexibility could potentially diminish quickly.
So, in short, I guess this has been a big “thank you” to our development team for essentially keeping our great product nice and stretched out. I may not be a master of karate like I used to be, but our dev. team is… at least in their own way!